On the bus ride that won't end until Jesus steps in and calls them all home, because he hasn't even stepped onto the field yet and he knows that Coach Boone is going to be one of the most evil sons of bitches that Gerry has ever had the misfortune to know, Julius' shoulder is pressed tight against Gerry's. The seat's too goddamned small for two boys their size to be crammed into it together, is all, but Gerry doesn't guess that little things like physics bother the coach too much when he can have his symbolism instead.
Gerry digs his elbow into Julius' side, experimentally, to see if he can wiggle himself enough room to at least not get a cramp in his other shoulder from being pressed against the glass so tightly. Julius' head snaps around so quickly that if he didn't know better Gerry would have guessed that it was spring-loaded and waiting for just such an occasion.
"White boy," Julius starts. He's keeping his voice pitched low, though Gerry doesn't know why he's bothering; there aren't any conversations going on on the bus, at all, so there's might as well be a soap opera complete with popcorn. "I really suggest that you don't."
"I'm not going to be able to tackle anybody if my arm's broken from the way that you're cramming me up against this window," Gerry grits out. He thinks about using the elbow again, maybe a little harder this time, but the driver is watching them from the rearview mirror.
"And I'm not going to be able to run from the way that half of my ass has gone numb hanging over his seat, so I guess we both have troubles, don't we?" Julius stares sullenly forward without waiting to see if Gerry's going to respond.
With the sunlight coming in through the bus window, the place where their shoulders are wedged up against one another is very warm, and Gerry can't wiggle nearly enough in the short-rationed space to get away.
Coach Boone doesn't even let them get settled into their spaces--all right, Gerry and Julius have something to do with that--before they're on the field, running their asses off as a personal kind of penance, or maybe Boone is just sadistic. After the Jerry Lewis stunt in front of the buses, in front of the entire town, or near enough, and all of his friends, Gerry don't have any trouble believing that. He thinks that he might throw up. He thinks that his legs are going to fall off. He can't do anything right, seems like, and he has both Boone and Yoast barking orders at him like he's never played the game before. This shouldn't be Julius' fault, but with his lip still stinging from the right hook that Julius got in before the rest of the team poured into the room and turned it into a full-on ruckus rather than a one-on-one settling of accounts, Gerry's in no mood to play fair. Especially not when everyone's being hollered at, but Julius seems to be being hollered at less.
Figures, Gerry decides as he picks himself up off of the ground after a brutal tackle that he shouldn't have missed. With Boone in charge, fucking figures.
He ain't being quite fair, part of him knows, but it's a small part. Julius has a blitz that'll take even Louie off of his feet, when he stops showboating and plays with the team enough to actually use it. Gerry wouldn't mind brawling with him again, still, even with Boone and Yoast watching the whole team with hawks' eyes, but he has to give the SOB this: he's fast.
They manage not to fight again when the coaches finally let them pack it in for the night, but barely, and even then mostly because they don't do much more than glance each other over when they're getting ready for bed. They sure as hell don't talk. Gerry swears that he's not going to do anything about the crawling tension in the room, like it's his fault or something, but he still hears himself saying, "You ain't bad, man."
Julius fishes a couple of magazines out of his bag, flicks through them, and then tosses them onto his small desk as he apparently decides that he's too tired for even light reading. The look he throws over his shoulder is sarcastic. "I'm good at sports," he says. "Thanks so much for noticing."
"I'm tryin' to be polite," Gerry starts, and then cuts it off on a hiss between his teeth. "You know what, never mind. I'll see you on the field tomorrow."
"Looking forward to it," Julius says. His smile is grim as he draws back the sheets on his bed. There's a bruise forming high up on his shoulder where someone slammed into him hard, earlier. There's a pretty long list of suspects on that one. All right, Gerry can admit that, too. He stares at the growing bruises and the clean, smooth planes of muscle in Julius' shoulders and back for a moment before he gets into his own bed and turns out the light.
It ain't even the third day before Gerry is convinced, and no one could possibly talk him out of it even if they tried, that he was right about Coach Boone. Seems the defense hasn't been hitting as hard as they could when they're blocking for teammates of the opposite race--Boone doesn't say a word to Ray about it, but Gerry can see his gaze flicker for just a second too long before he moves on--so it's time for a little standing in each other's shoes. Ray's going to get his ass kicked for this later, see if he doesn't, if Gerry doesn't spend all of his energy kicking Julius' ass first. They've slammed against each other four times now, and while Gerry can't wait for this stupid exercise in solidarity to run its course so that they can go back to ignoring each other, there's a smirk on Julius' face each time that he manages to get Gerry down to the ground, and Gerry can feel every single one of his ribs from his toes up to his throat.
"You--" he starts as Coach Boone blows his whistle and they separate themselves for another drill.
Julius' eyes are dark, and dangerous, like he already knows what Gerry wants to say. "Me what?" he spits out in a voice that, though he's barely even raising it to a normal speaking level, let alone yelling, sends a ripple through the air. All of the coaches stop and look for a moment, before Boone fires off on that whistle again.
"You son of a bitch," Gerry growls out, and charges Julius again. Julius is the one who winds up on his back in the sun-baked grass this time. The blades break beneath the weight of their bodies and fill Gerry's nostrils with a clean, alive smell that mingles with that of a warm form under him. The biggest thing in Gerry's entire line of sight is Julius.
He actually doesn't mean to elbow Julius in the stomach as he scrambles up, he just has to get out of there now, and so he doesn't get mad when Julius is quick to throw his knee up and into Gerry's hamstring in retaliation. "Sorry," Gerry spits out quickly, turning before Coach Boone can lay into that damned whistle again.
He stays away from Ray when they're allowed to go inside to shower and eat. He can feel Ray's confusion and hurt, but he doesn't dare go near anyone who knows him well enough to guess what just happened.
Gerry knows he ought to be sleeping, God only knows how hard they're going to be worked as soon as the sun rises, but he stares at the darkened ceiling instead and keeps his fists clenched tight at his sides. There's one way he knows of to put himself out like a light, but 1) there's another person in the room with him, and Gerry isn't about to mistake the revelation that Julius develops a soft snore when he's exhausted with a deep enough sleep to get away with that, and 2) it ain't Emma's soft curves and crooked smile that's running through his mind.
Three a.m. comes. The suicide run is almost a welcome.
"Way to go, white boy," Julius says to Gerry that night. "You didn't throw up."
Gerry's whole body aches, and his head is spinning, not because it was hard to put all of the calories that he lost back in at dinner. He doesn't look at Julius. Julius can think that it's a sense of dormant conscience woken up by Boone's speech earlier, or he can think that Gerry just has gas, so long as he doesn't guess the truth. Not yet. Gerry's not ready for him to guess the truth, and he's already doing all that he can to handle the fact that there's a "yet" attached to it at all.
"You threw up twice," Gerry addresses his pillow as he pulls the sheets back. He doesn't look up until he feels Julius' stare, curious and studying, becoming a weight.
"Yeah, and I'm congratulating you on the fact that you didn't." Julius smiles a little, a flicker on the edges of his mouth. He needs to not smile like that. When Gerry's whole body is tingling with something he ain't anywhere near to dealing with, Julius needs to not smile at all. In fact, Gerry wouldn't mind if one of them went to go sleep on the roof.
Even though he feels a pang--Lord help him, he's feeling a pang--at leaving the hand of truce dangling, Gerry goes to bed quickly, and tries to sleep. He thinks that he can still feel Julius watching him in the few minutes before Julius turns off the light, but he tells himself that he's insane, and manages to keep his hand off of himself underneath the sheets.
After Gerry finally does his job and forces the white half of the defense to do their jobs, Coach Boone makes them run the play three more times and then turns them loose for the night. Gerry ducks under a shower and for the first time in days is too tired to make certain that it's frigid cold as a reminder before he redresses and pads quietly towards the dorm that he's sharing with Julius for the next week and a half before they bus back into town. Most of the guys are creeping down into the kitchen with the stealth of ravenous elephants for a second dinner, and the staff who's had football teams in here for summer training since most of them were too small to lace up cleats is pretending not to notice. Gerry had noticed that there was a hell of a lot more mingling going on between the clusters, and not just Rev and Louie. Fine. So Julius was right about that one. It's a lot easier to admit than Gerry would have guessed. He's probably going to chew on the edge of his plate in the morning, he'll be so hungry, but right about now he's almost too tired to put his hand on the door and turn the knob.
Julius has already showered and redressed and is lying on top of his bed, propped up on one elbow while he flips idly through a car magazine. Gerry remembers him telling Petey that he was rebuilding a '62 Mustang that his dad had found for him, one secondhand part at a time. He raises his eyes but not his head as Gerry shuts the door behind him. Gerry remembers this being a lot easier when they were yelling chants at each other on the football field. He lays down on his bed and throws his arm across his eyes.
"You can leave the light on, it ain't bothering me," he thinks to say a few minutes later.
Sounding a little amused, Julius answers, "I wasn't going to turn it off, so I appreciate your permission."
Damn it, this was definitely easier out on that field, and before he had to start watching himself in order to monitor his dreams. Gerry keeps his arm over his eyes so that his blush is not so visible. He hears Julius shift, and a page turn, and then Julius says, "You were gone so long, I figured you was going downstairs with the other guys to eat."
Gerry grunts. He can feel himself being watched, and for a lot longer than his response warrants. "I'm pretty sure I would have passed out into my sandwich." After a few more seconds, he asks, "You like Camaros?"
"Nah, my cousin has one, it leaves her on the side of the road at least once a month." Gerry hears a few more pages turn; he glances from under his arm and sees that Julius is studying his magazine very hard. "What about you, you like Camaros?"
"Never driven one. You like Novas?" He looks up. Julius is openly grinning at him now.
"You know, I'm pretty sure the assignment is over." Gerry throws his pillow at Julius on impulse, and even Julius laughs as he snatches it out of the air. Rather than throwing it back, he folds it up and puts it behind him, grinning even harder as he goes back to his magazine. Mumbling under his breath, Gerry swings his legs over the side of his own bed and goes to Julius so that he can retrieve it, putting his hand upon Julius' shoulder and yanking his pillow back so hard that Julius falls back against the wall with a thumping sound. His laugh is bright and startled.
Gerry doesn't even know how his mouth finally comes down on Julius', except that he's probably saved himself at least three more hours awkward small talk about cars he's not familiar with, and he thinks as first that he's about to have to explain away another fight in the dorm room. The moment hangs, deepens, until some mutual instinct of that Gerry is going to settle for calling what the hell takes over; Julius takes Gerry by the bicep and tugs him down hard onto the bed. He's something, all right, right now, but pissed off doesn't seem to be it. The car magazine makes a rippling noise as it gets pushed over the edges of the mattress. You *were* watching me, Gerry thinks, startled and pleased. You were, you were. They kiss for a long time. Gerry waits for one of them to come to his senses and push the other away, and by the time that he realizes that ain't going to happen, it's too far to call back.
It's awkward the next morning for about half an hour until Gerry takes a hard tackle that has both Boone and Yoast yelling at him to go back to the dorm and find his head again, he obviously left it there, and Julius saying, "Way to fly, Superman," as he extends his hand down to help Gerry back up to his feet.
They wrap around each other again that night, take longer, spend less time awkwardly trying not to meet one another's eyes, and doze against each other in Gerry's bed for a short while before they untangle so that Julius can return to his.
Coming back from camp changes things. For one, they don't have a conveniently shared room at night, and Gerry has never in his life been more aware of what it's like to be seventeen and how easy it is to become addicted to a steady supply of sex. For another, the team made a bubble around themselves all the while that they were away from town. It became easy, during those three weeks that they had spent the first half of fighting one another, that the rest of the town (Gerry's half of the town, he forces himself to admit as he watches Emma stalk away from him) didn't want to stand in that bubble along with them. They want to break away from each other again, he can feel the bonds just as fragile as the skin on any soap bubble straining, and even though he's supposed to be the captain he doesn't know what the hell he's supposed to do. The only thing that seems to surprise no one, not even the people who aren't Titans after a span of only a few days even if they don't maybe like it, is how regularly Julius and Gerry touch each other. Gerry grabs at Julius' elbow to catch his attention in the hallway at school, Julius puts his hand on the back of Gerry's helmet and pulls his head close so that he can be heard over the cheerleaders during the first game when he wants to say something that no one else needs to overhear. No one else on the team touches each other with that kind of frequency--Gerry counts--and yet no one else seems to notice or care, either.
Gerry thinks, This part is only for us, and for now, at least, the secret is energizing rather than tiring. It burns on its own fuel.
It's the closest thing to a fight they've had since they actually had a fight, the kind with fists, directly after Yorktown. It's made worse by the fact that they can't actually have it in public.
"Whatever," Julius keeps saying. "Whatever, whatever." He's standing too far back from Gerry in front of Gerry's car on a deserted road far from even the suburbs, his arms crossed over his chest. The smell of green things slowly being overcome by fall is heavy around them. "Look, like I said, I knew you weren't ever going to show your face around someplace like the 'burg, just like you know damned good and well that I'm never going to meet your mama for dinner, and it doesn't have anything to do with the fact that we're--" Julius makes a gesture between the two of them that seems helpless, confused, and entirely mirrors what Gerry is thinking. They're fucking, and it ought to be pretty clear by now that they're not just fucking, but they're fools if they think that they're dating, either. Gerry tries to imagine which one Mama would be able to get over faster, the fact that he's seeing another boy or that he's seeing a black boy, and decides that he had probably resign himself to being an orphan before he ever mans up enough to actually tell her.
"I'm sorry, okay?" Apologies aren't supposed to sound that angry. Gerry sucks in air between his teeth and tries again, sees Julius' eyes still glittering angry and hurt with each word that falls flat to the ground and lies there without doing the job that, in Gerry's head, they somehow magically stand up again and manage to do. "She just--she's older, okay, and I'm all that she's got left. It's hard to let her think that I'm letting her down in some stupid way even when I know she's wrong."
"Goddamnit, Gerry, I'm not talking about making out with you in the quad!" Julius yells. "I'm talking about playing a basketball game and eating at the same damned table!" He's at least three feet away, and yet Gerry still feels pushed back against his car.
"You're right," he says. "You're right. Come on, I'll take you home."
Gerry keeps his window down so that he can feel the first hints of summer ripening into fall on his face, but that ain't why the interior is so chilly and he knows it. The last time that they drove like this, Julius filled him in animatedly on the progress of the Mustang, but he doesn't volunteer now and Gerry doesn't dare ask. They're nearly back to town when Julius mutters a curse under his breath and abruptly grabs for the steering wheel. They go screaming onto the shoulder and Gerry barely puts his foot onto the break in time to keep them from hitting a tree.
"Are you trying to kill us?" he barely manages to start before Julius is on him. Julius puts the car into park, and Gerry only just keeps his put on the brake for that, too. It's the last thought of braking anything that he has for a good while. It's fast and it's rough, making them both hiss, and Gerry swears that Julius bites him once or twice. He'll be too high on hormones to be sure until he gets home and looks in the mirror. It's a revelation both frightening and heady, that sex can creep this close to violence and he might even get off on it harder that way, so long as it comes in small doses. He winds up half out of his seat and into Julius' by the time that they're both winding down again, and Julius has his seatbelt unbuckled but still wound ridiculously about his body. Their foreheads are resting together when they start coming down. Julius hand is in the small of his back, and Gerry's are on Julius' waist, where he thinks that he might have left a bruise or two jerking Julius up closer against him. They both like to...not precisely cuddle--Gerry's almost certain that he'll leave his mama childless, her son dead of mortification, if either one of them should ever call it that--but rest close to each other for a bit while they catch their breaths, and enjoy the feel of another warm body so close at hand. The only thing that keeps Gerry from jerking up and back into his own seat immediately tonight is the intuition that it'll be even more awkward if he does. He rests his forehead against the crook of Julius' shoulder and isn't quite sure of himself until Julius tilts his head slightly to make room for him.
"Something's gotta give, man," he says against Julius' shoulder, prickled over with a very faint layer of clean sweat and tasting of salt.
Julius shifts a little more, and the hand on Gerry's back tightens. Gerry doesn't know if he's forgiven or not. "Damn right, Superman," he says. "I call a meeting in the next few days, your ass had better be backing me up."
"I can do that," Gerry says. He means it. Dipping his head more fully against Julius' neck, he bites very lightly against Julius' collarbone and says, "My mama makes the best pot roast you've ever eaten, I swear to God."
Julius snorts out his first laugh of the night and shoves Gerry back into his seat so hard that Gerry barks his elbow against the steering wheel along the way. "Quit trying to feel me up and get me home by curfew," he says.
Dinner is awkward, but not nearly so much as it could have been. Gerry guesses that a few more winning football games and him forcefully mentioning that his friend Julius is coming over for dinner in a few days and did he mention that he's a really good friend? at every opportunity can do that. His mama doesn't notice that Gerry and Julius touch at each other more than he and Ray ever did, either, and Gerry is starting to feel more than a little bulletproof.
Bulletproof enough so that when they're ensconced in Gerry's room later with the door closed--a detail that he never would have gotten away with when he used to have Emma over here--and presumably studying, Gerry barely gets fifteen minutes into outlining the assigned history chapters before he says, "Hey, Julius, c'mere."
Julius looks up from where he's sprawled out all of three feet away on the opposite end of the bed, lips moving silently as he memorizes chemistry equations. His shirt has shifted upwards to show the faint dip in the small of his back, and Gerry wants to touch it. "What?"
"Come here, up against the front of the bed," Gerry insists without explaining what he has in mind just yet. Everything's been going so well lately that he can't help but feel flushed with it, and ready to try something a little new. They've mostly been touching each other with their hands until now, or sometimes laying their bodies entire against one another, and that was new enough for both when the body beneath or against them had some distinct anatomy. But tonight...tonight Gerry wants to try something new.
Smiling a little, Julius does as Gerry asks, scooting their textbooks out of the way as he goes. He settles himself back with his hands folded behind his head and lifts his eyebrow at Gerry. "Well?" Gerry starts stroking him through the front of his pants. "All right, all right. I hope you're planning something good, if I'm going to flunk this test because of it."
In spite of his eagerness of a few minutes prior, Gerry can still feel a flush rising up on his cheeks. "I am," he said. His teasing is starting to have an effect, and not just below the belt; Julius' is breathing a little faster, and his eyes are starting to dilate. He licks slowly at his lower lip. Gerry loves it when he looks like that. "I've just, um, never done this before." Julius sits up a little more against the headboard as he gets it, as Gerry draws the zipped down on the front of Julius' pants, moves Julius' underwear down with it, and lowers his head.
It ain't bad. The first few minutes are kind of awkward and strange-tasting, as Gerry tries to imitate what the small handful of his past girlfriends willing to go that far with him did and is convinced that he's doing it all wrong, can't get himself to stop blushing to save his life. He's doing something right enough, though, that Julius puts his hand on the back of Gerry's neck in a silent request for him to do it again, and then grinds out his name in a strange tone when Gerry moves his tongue a certain way. Gerry likes it when Julius sounds like that, too, and can't stop himself from making a small moue from the back of his throat; he honestly almost doesn't register when his mother knocks softly against his bedroom door and calls, "Are you boys all right in there? You're being awfully quiet."
Gerry lurches up so fast that he makes the mattress squeak, barely listening to Julius' clenched curse as he struggles to pull his clothing back together, kicks all of their textbooks off and to the floor, and caps it all off by falling off of the bed that he's slept in for the past thirteen years and with a hard thump down to the floor. Julius grabs for one of Gerry's pillows to put over the erection that even the possibility of getting caught hasn't been enough to kill and bites hard at the flesh on his hand. If Julius gives in and starts laughing now, Gerry swears that he's going to kick his ass, and it'll be real easy, given that he might be living with him.
"Gerry?" His mother sounds more than a little worried now, and Gerry swears that he can see the knob starting to turn. If she comes in now, she's going to find Gerry flat on his back on the floor with swollen lips and every single thing that he and Julius were just doing written all over his face.
"We're fine, Mama, we were just horsing around a little," he calls out, finally. The knob stops moving. Gerry is still convinced that he heard his voice crack. Julius on the bed still has Gerry's pillow across his lap and his head in his other hand; he's doubled over, shoulders moving. "Help me here!" Gerry hisses up at him.
Julius finally lifts his head. Oh, they are so lucky that he's managed to keep quiet for even that long, because he looks as if he wants to laugh so hard that he might cry. "Sorry, Mrs. Bertier," he manages. "We just needed a break from, you know, the studying." Julius looks over the edge of the bed at Gerry. Gerry is the one being studied, and Julius obviously likes what he sees. He stage-whispers, "I thought you were going to bite my dick off!" Gerry sticks his thumb into his mouth and clamps down hard to avoid hysterical laughter.
"Well...all right." Mama still sounds as if she knows that something is up. "You boys make sure you get some actual work done, all right? I don't want either of your grades slipping." Gerry can hear her heels going down the hallway. After a few more seconds, he pushes himself cautiously back up from the floor.
"Both of our grades," he tells Julius before he gives up and pushes his face against Julius' shoulder so that he can laugh so hard and for so long that his ribs ache. "Congratulations, you've won her over."
"Shut up, Superman," Julius says. He lies back further among the pillows and fists his hand through the front of Gerry's shirt to pull him down on top of him. "And finish what you started."
Gerry might not know what he's doing, just yet, but he's a quick study, and he's even quicker to learn when Julius then turns around and does all of those same tricks right back to him. Julius doesn't flunk his test, but he does get a C that he bitches about for days, and Gerry is caught completely flat-footed in history class when Mr. Parsons asks him why he doesn't have the answer to the question but keeps grinning like he's thinking of something funny.
"I think that Petey's starting to figure it out." The first bite of fall is definitely starting to curl through the air for longer than it takes the sun to chase it away again, not enough yet to justify most people lighting their pilots. Julius' room is slightly cold as a result, even under a blanket, which is as good an excuse as any for them to be lying twined around one another a little longer than usual before they go about pulling their clothes back on. But they ain't cuddling, Gerry wants to be very clear on that, even if he's going to be sad when Julius finally has to move his hand off of Gerry's hip.
Julius' head is on his shoulder; Gerry twists and looks down at the shell of Julius' ear. "You're kidding me."
"Nope." Julius shifts away and reaches for his pants. His mama and sister will be back from grocery shopping just any minute now, and Gerry and Julius were supposed to have gone to the basketball courts at least an hour before. "I asked him if he was doing anything on Friday after the game, and he said he was going on a hot date, but I knew all about that since I'm with you every Friday night."
"Fuck." Gerry wiggles off the bed and starts rummaging around for his own clothing. The team don't care that he and Julius are more or less best friends by now, and if anyone in the actual town cares, still, then they ain't saying anything about it so long as those football games keep being won, but Gerry imagines the situation will chance by just a hair if anyone outside of the team found out that he and Julius are best friends who also sleep together every chance that they get. From where Gerry's standing, that's pretty much what you call a relationship. He's not even certain that the team would be all right with it, no matter how much Sunshine has never given a clear answer to why he kissed Gerry that one time and has never responded to any of the girls who find reasons to walk close to him in the halls. Maybe Gerry ought to be a better man and say that the whole world can go fuck itself, then, but the whole world worries him, and he can take one look at Julius and see that it worries him, too.
"Superman," Julius says. He puts his hand on the back of Gerry's neck and pulls him across the bed for a long, interesting kiss before he answers. "I'm not going to mope around on a problem unless I already have a solution."
Gerry hears Julius' mother's car pulling into the driveway and pulls his shirt back over his head, even though he would really like to go back to kissing. "And?" he asks.
"Girl named Bethany Anderson in my chemistry class," Julius says easily. He grabs his basketball from the top of his study desk and throws it at Gerry. Gerry catches it from the air. "She's willing to pretend to be my girl every once in a while, when we need it."
Gerry can feel the line drawing itself down between his eyes. Maybe Emma was his last experience with a girl, but he's pretty sure that as a species they don't take so kindly to be used. "And she just agreed to that?" he asks, throws the basketball back.
Julius twirls his basketball on his index finger for a good ten seconds before he has to let it fall. "If I'll pretend to be her guy while she goes to see her girl, yeah, it's cool," he says.
"Oh. Oh." Gerry grins. "You tell her that if she needs a guy for her girl, I'm available, all right?"
Julius leans close as they're slipping out the back door, just seconds before his mama comes in the front. "I don't think her daddy would approve of you," he murmurs, voice warm tickle against the side of Gerry's face.
Bethany's pretty, and giddy, and she waves brightly at Gerry as he pulls away from the curb in his car. They're going to State, is what they're doing, and he kind of can't believe it himself. The sidewalks are packed with people waving and cheering at him as he idles slowly past, taking it all in. This is what people mean when they say that high school is the greatest time of your life. Gerry can't imagine ever topping this moment. He can't imagine wanting to. He presses his foot to the gas.
The headlights of the truck are the biggest thing in the whole world. He screams on impact, then doesn't feel anything at all, and it's not until much later that it occurs to him that this ain't a blessing.
They're talking about crushed vertebrae. They're talking about a crushed spine. They're talking about how lucky he is, really, that he might never walk again, but at least he's probably still going to be able to father children, and he might get enough feeling left to tell whether or not someone has set him on fire. Maybe. On a good day, if he prays real hard and eats all of his vegetables.
Gerry's drunk on morphine; he doesn't want to think about this. "Get Julius," he says, and bodily shoves at a nurse who tries to adjust his IV. His body is still in shock and doesn't want to obey him, so his hand slips off of her hip without moving her by an inch. "Don't talk to me, I don't care, just get Julius here."
Julius slips into the hospital room on feet as quiet as any cat's, though Gerry is awake and knew exactly when he was going to be getting there. He knows exactly how far away State is from his hospital bed in miles, and he knows Julius. The Mustang was finished three days before the big game. They're not letting Gerry out of his bed to roam the halls in this wheelchair that he's going to have to figure out sooner or later, yet, but that hadn't stopped Julius from parking his car in front of the hospital and honking on the horn maniacally until orderlies had run him off. Engine like that, he wouldn't be surprised to learn that Julius damned near flew.
"Hey," Julius says in a whisper as he notices that Gerry is propped up partway and looking at him, as if he really didn't think that Gerry would stay awake long enough for Julius to make the drive. If Gerry had something near at hand, he would throw it at him.
"Hey," Gerry answers. "Why are you whispering?"
Julius is holding something behind him. When Gerry cocks his head at him, Julius pulls a football out from behind his back, battered and grass-stained. Gerry knows immediately what it is. His eyes feel sandy, all of a sudden, and his voice is a tight and strained as he says, "Hey. Hey, that's a hell of a present that you got me, right there."
"Like this ball was going to go to anyone else but you, Superman," Julius says. He hands it over to Gerry and then takes a seat on the edge of the hospital bed, so carefully, as if he thinks that Gerry is going to break into a thousand pieces because the mattress gets shifted wrong. Took a hit a lot harder than that to break him, he wants to say, but Julius ghosts his fingers down the length of Gerry's arm and make his eyes a lot sandier. Gerry grabs for Julius, instead, so that Julius can see that he's still flesh and bone here, not glass, and pulls Julius partway down on top and beside him.
"Gerry," Julius starts. He's bracing his weight up on his elbows even though Gerry wasn't trying to get him to lie on him all the way, just maybe touch him a little more like he understood that Gerry wasn't going to vanish in the next second. "I don't want to hurt you."
"I ain't going to die because of this," Gerry answers. Julius sighs and presses his forehead down against Gerry's, then kisses him. It's soft and slow, but it ain't anywhere near chaste. Gerry would have to be on a lot more morphine to not read the promise in it, even if they have to table it for a little bit while his body gets some things sussed out.
"I know," Julius answers him. "But I'd still rather not kill you in the meanwhile, I don't know what the hell kind of glue they got holding you together."
Gerry laughs and then aborts it when he remembers that he has a couple of cracked ribs floating around in there, too. Julius looks triumphant. Gerry says, "Shut up." He tugs Julius up a little further on the bed, trying to get as much of their bodies touching as possible, even the ones that Gerry can't feel any longer. Fine. They're finally cuddling. Over Julius' shoulder, Gerry sees Alice walk by the door, pause when she sees that that is definitely not the way that brothers hold each other, and ultimately walk on without saying a word. Good. It's Julius' decision, too, but for Gerry's part he figures he's already out into one brave new territory without his say-so that this other one ain't likely to be that much harder. If Julius agrees.
"I'm not going anywhere, Superman," Julius says softly, almost as if he was reading Gerry's mind. Likely he had everything that he was thinking written across his face.
"That's good," Gerry answers, knowing that he's allowed a long enough pause go by to make Julius a little anxious. "Until they get me that chair, I really can't go anywhere myself, so it's a good thing that you're sticking around."
Julius doesn't laugh. He reaches for Gerry's other hand, still placed loosely on the game ball, twines their fingers together. They don't move apart until Alice comes through on her second sweep, just a few hours before dawn comes in through the window.